Tragedy in chase: 'There will be another grieving family today - for what?'

By Kyra Dawson, Corazon Miller

A Rotorua woman has died in what's been described as another tragic crash that highlights the fatal risk of fleeing from police at high speeds.

In the early hours of yesterday she was seen driving a car through an intersection erratically and at high speed along Tarewa Rd.

Police tried to stop the car, but the driver continued for a kilometre before losing control and crashing over a stream bank and hitting a berm on the other side.

The driver was pronounced dead at the scene and three others received minor injuries. The woman is expected to be named today.

She's one of at least four to die this year in three separate incidents involving police pursuits.

In late January, two Featherston teens, Hoani Korewha, 15, and Pacer Willacy-Scott, 15, died after the car they were in fled from police.

Earlier in the month Eden Nathan, 16, died under similar circumstances.

A week ago Nathan's mother, Elizabeth Harrison, spoke to the Herald about the senseless loss of her daughter.

She spoke out, warning other teens to learn from the nightmare that had become her reality. "When you kids are out there doing the things you do, your families are at home wondering ... fearing for your lives. Your families love you. We will miss you if you continue to do things that harm you."

Rotorua police confirmed a serious crash investigation was under way yesterday.

They declined to provide further details, including about how fast the car was going and what weather conditions were like.

"While this investigation is ongoing, police are not in a position to comment on any detail of the crash," a police statement said.

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Bruce Horne said the crash was a tragedy.

"This incident highlights the risk of driving at speed and the tragic consequences that can result when a driver refuses to stop and instead chooses to evade the police."

He said the matter had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

One Tarewa Rd resident said he heard the crash.

"It was quite loud and I saw the police car in the road and then I saw the car. I yelled at my wife to call 111.

"The police were there fast and they did really well. I couldn't speak highly enough of their efforts."

He said there had been a few incidents on the same stretch of road before. "It's an extremely sad event. We have noticed a few people walking by today."

One resident woke to hear noises and dogs barking and saw emergency services bring the car up.

"When they brought the car up the top it was so mangled. It was such a mess."

She said it looked as if the car had lost control on the corner.

"It was a big impact going into the ditch. She must have been moving fast."

The woman said people had been looking at the site yesterday.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority at a parliamentary law and order committee in February reiterated calls to review police guidelines on pursuits - but its pleas failed to bring about any changes.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said police across the world had tried to change policies around pursuits to no avail.

He said such chases were typically short-lived, giving little time to weigh up the options.

"Unfortunately with these situations, the outcome is in the hands of the driver who chose to accelerate."

He said any pursuit that ended in death was distressing for all involved.

"It's the stupidity and pointlessness of this that gets to people," he said.

"There will be another grieving family today - for what?"

- NZ Herald

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